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IYPT Elements

IYPT 2019 Elements 070: Ytterbium: Accurate atomic clocks and brain studies

Element 70 in our International Year of the Periodic Table series is ytterbium. Ytterbium is found in the most accurate atomic clocks and is also used in studies of the brain.

Like its predecessor, thulium, ytterbium is used in portable X-ray machines. Ytterbium-169 can be used as a radiation source for this purpose. Ytterbium-169 complexes can also be used in nuclear medicine to study the brain’s cerebrospinal fluid.

We’ve previously encountered atomic clocks when discussing the uses of rubidium and caesium. Ytterbium is used in the latest generation of atomic clocks which are even more accurate than those that use rubidium and caesium. Ytterbium atomic clocks, developed in recent years, are accurate to one second in the age of the universe and could have a variety of applications.

Remember, you can keep track of all of the previous entries in this series on the site here, or on the Royal Society of Chemistry’s dedicated page.

You can download all of the element graphics so far here.